January 27, 2017 •
News You Can Use Digest – January 27, 2017
Angry Democrats Study the Tea Party’s Playbook
New York Times – Jonathan Martin | Published: 1/23/2017
Eight years after Republicans united after a stinging electoral defeat to oppose President Barack Obama, Democrats are channeling an even deeper anxiety over President Trump into a newfound burst of organizing. Party leaders, eyeing the recent huge protests and growing worries over the promised repeal of the Affordable Care Act, are hoping to recreate the mass movement that sprang up in 2009 and swept Republicans to power in the House and in governor’s races across the country – a tea party equivalent from the left.
Report Cites Growing Corruption, Sees Link with Rising Populism
Reuters – Andrea Shalal | Published: 1/25/2017
Those who turn to populist politicians that promise to upset the status quo and end corruption may only be feeding the problem, a watchdog group warned. Transparency International said in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index for 2016 that in countries with populist or autocratic leaders, “instead of tackling crony capitalism, those leaders usually install even worse forms of corrupt systems.”
At Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, the Price for Joining the ‘Winter White House’ Has Doubled
Washington Post – Drew Harwell | Published: 1/25/2017
Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach resort owned by the Trump Organization, doubled its new-member fee to $200,000 following the election of Donald Trump as president. Mar-a-Lago has assumed a prized role in Trump’spresidency, rivaling Trump Tower as a focal point of his lifestyle and ambitions. The price jump was slammed by watchdogs, who have criticized Trump’ lack of separation between his private finances and public power. Asked if having Trump in the White House has meant greater interest in outsiders joining the club – including people who might want access to the president – Bernd Lembcke, the managing director of the club, said, “t enhances it.”
Companies Drafting Emergency Plans for Trump Tweets
The Hill – Megan Wilson and Melanie Zanona | Published: 1/19/2017
President Donald Trump has used social media to criticize American businesses, often for off-shoring jobs or manufacturing facilities, and many expect him to keep up the broadsides in the Oval Office. Being attacked by Trump is not only bad publicity but also it can also cause a sudden drop in a company’s stock price. Businesses that have yet to tangle with Trump are fearful they might be next, and have turned to consultants and lobbyists in Washington, D.C. to prepare for the possibility.
Lawmakers Admonish Ethics Official Over Tweets About Trump
Business Insider – Matthew Daley (Associated Press) | Published: 1/23/2017
Lawmakers from both parties admonished a federal ethics official who sent a series of tweets commenting on President Donald Trump’s potential conflicts-of-interest. Members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said the tweets by Walter Shaub Jr., director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), were inappropriate and could compromise the agency’s objectivity. Committee Chairperson Jason Chaffetz called Shaub’s comments “highly unethical” and summoned him to a closed-door meeting. Chaffetz and committee Democrats also met with Shaub for more than an hour, an unusual meeting prompted by Republicans’ frustration with the ethics office and its operations, rather than Trump.
Liberal Watchdog Group Sues Trump, Alleging He Violated Constitutional Ban
Washington Post – David Fahrenthold and Jonathan O’Connell | Published: 1/23/2017
To fight what it called a “grave threat” to the country, a watchdog group filed a lawsuit alleging President Donald Trump is violating the Constitution by allowing his business to accept payments from foreign governments. The lawsuit claims Trump is violating a clause in the Constitution that prohibits him from receiving money from diplomats for stays at his hotels or foreign governments for leases of office space in his buildings. The language in the clause is disputed by legal experts, and some think the suit will fail, but it signaled the start of a legal assault by Trump critics on what they see as unprecedented conflicts between his business and the presidency.
Trump’s Flashy Executive Actions Could Run Aground
Politico – Isaac Arnsdorf, Josh Dawsey, and Seung Min Kim | Published: 1/25/2017
The breakneck pace of President Donald Trump’s executive orders might please his supporters, but critics are questioning whether the documents are being rushed through without the necessary review from agency experts and lawmakers who will bear the burden of actually carrying them out. People familiar with Trump’s planning say he wanted daily events to show supporters he would follow through on his campaign agenda, but the process is playing out chaotically. Inside the West Wing, it is almost impossible for some aides to know what is in the executive orders, staffers say. They have been written by Stephen Miller, the senior adviser for policy, and Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, according to people familiar with the matter. By contrast, the Obama White House ran executive orders through a painstaking process of soliciting feedback from agencies and briefing lawmakers.
We Rely on the Government for Lots of Data. What Happens to That in the Era of ‘Alternative Facts’?
Washington Post – Mark Berman | Published: 1/23/2017
For wary journalists, it seemed only a matter of time before Donald Trump’s presidency would lead to a standoff between his administration and the news media. On the first weekend of the administration, Trump declared himself in “a running war with the media” and the president’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, used his first appearance on the White House podium to deliver a fiery jeremiad against the press. Worse, many journalists said, were the falsehoods that sprang from the lips of both Trump and Spicer. False statements, lies, and evasions are not unique to any one politician or political operative, nor are they the province solely of those who work in politics. But they take on an unmistakably different tenor when delivered with the imprimatur of the federal government, something that remains true even given the times government agencies and officials have been dishonest with the American people.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alaska – As Clock Ticked Toward Session, Alaska Lawmakers Turned to Lobbyists for Cash
Alaska Dispatch News – Nathaniel Herz | Published: 1/22/2017
While state law prohibits Alaska lawmakers from collecting campaign money during the legislative session, fundraisers held on the eve of the session have long been a tradition in Juneau. Lobbyists are banned from donating directly to legislative candidates, except those seeking to represent the lobbyist’s own House or Senate district. But they can give thousands of dollars at the pre-session events, which technically raise money for party committees, not lawmakers’ campaigns, though the parties often distribute cash to the campaigns of individual legislators.
Colorado – Colorado Ethics Commission Tells Aurora Councilwoman to Follow State Ethics Rules Because of Job
Denver Post – Jon Murray | Published: 1/23/2017
The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission said a state employee who also serves as an Aurora City Council member should follow Amendment 41 rather than her city’s less-stringent gift rules. Councilperson Angela Lawson works by day as the lobbyist program manager in the secretary of state’s office. She has been waiting more than a year for an advisory opinion following her election in November 2015. The request was delayed after the commission decided first to sort out how to approach home-rule cities that have their own ethics codes and do not follow the state’s Amendment 41, passed by voters in 2006. The ethics panel issued a recent position statement on the issue sparking outcry from the Colorado Municipal League and local government attorneys.
Florida – Lee Clerk Wants Audit of County Lobby Logs
The News-Press – Patricia Borns | Published: 1/24/2017
Clerk of Court Linda Doggett plans to audit Lee County commissioners’ logs to find out if they and their staff are being transparent about their conversations with lobbyists. A media investigation of Commissioner Larry Kiker’s lobby logs found discrepancies between his calendars, emails, and text messages showing meetings and phone calls with paid and unpaid lobbyists were not always noted. A second investigation, after Kiker cleaned up the lobby log, showed the problem persisted.
New Mexico – Loophole Cuts Lobbyist Spending Reporting
New Mexico In Depth – Sandra Fish | Published: 1/19/2017
New Mexico Lobbyists and their employers spent more than $595,000 on gifts, meals, and more for lawmakers and other public officials in 2016. But that number is likely tens of thousands of dollars too low because of a loophole created during the last legislative session. That loophole removed a requirement for lobbyists to report any expenses spent on individual lawmakers below a certain threshold. Previously, lobbyists had to report all spending, itemizing expenses spent above $75 per lawmaker and aggregating expenses below $75 per lawmaker. Now lobbyists do not have to report any spending below $100 per lawmaker. That took effect July 1, 2016.
South Dakota – South Dakota Legislators Seek Hasty Repeal of Ethics Law Voters Passed
New York Times – Monica Davey and Nicholas Confessore | Published: 1/25/2017
South Dakota voters approved a ballot measure last November that would create an independent state ethics commission, impose tougher limits on campaign contributions and lobbyists’ gifts to lawmakers, increase disclosure by independent political groups, and set up a system to publicly finance elections. But the state’s Republican Legislature is racing to set aside that new law by using its emergency powers, prompting cries of protest from voters and critics, who are calling the hasty efforts an antidemocratic power grab. In effect, they say, the state’s residents are being told their votes do not matter. Lawmakers demanding repeal say the ethics regulations are irretrievably flawed and include provisions that may be unconstitutional.
Texas – Once-Dead Ethics Reforms Could Curb Lobbying Tricks, Increase Disclosures and Punish Criminal Lawmakers
Dallas News – J. David McSwane | Published: 1/25/2017
Ethics reform bills have been introduced in the Texas Legislature. Sen. Van Taylor and Rep. Charlie Geren are each filing substantial bills in their chambers, along with smaller measures dedicated to specific ethics reforms outlined in the larger bills. That scattershot approach increases the likelihood that at least some of the new regulations will reach the governor’s desk. The reforms include lowering the dollar threshold for when lobbyists must report paying for meals or transportation for officials. Lobbyists would also be required to itemize the total bill paid on behalf of elected officials or their families. This closes a loophole that allows lobbyists to split large bar and restaurant tabs, among several lobbyists to avoid reporting thresholds.
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